LEWISTON — By the end of the City Council meeting Tuesday, Councilor Stephanie Gelinas had her head resting on her hands and Councilor Bob McCarthy was holding his council binder in front of his face. At one point, Councilor Larry Pease got up from his seat and walked off, then returned.

Lewiston City Councilor Linda Scott speaks at a meeting April 5, 2022. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal file

The body language on display followed a final half-hour of a meeting that devolved into a heated debate over accusations that a quorum of councilors recently met outside of the council chamber  — at The Cage bar on Ash Street — and discussed city business, which is against state law.

The exchange was set off when Councilor Linda Scott, repeating statements she made Monday during the School Committee meeting, said four councilors met at The Cage alongside two Planning Board members late last month, and that several topics discussed could be considered city business.

Scott has asked the city attorney to look into the matter and give an opinion on whether the meeting violated open meeting laws.

On Monday, Scott told the School Committee that the conversation also included privileged information discussed about specific students in executive sessions that only the School Committee should know, and she asked the school district’s attorney to look into it.

The debate that followed Tuesday showed a council that has become increasingly fractured. The four councilors who attended the meeting at The Cage — Bob McCarthy, Rick Lachapelle, Larry Pease and Lee Clement — defended their actions and said Scott’s statements were nothing more than election-season “politicking.”


Planning Board member Josh Nagine, who attended the meeting alongside member Amy Smith, sent a statement through online public comment Tuesday, stating that those present at The Cage discussed topics like Central Maine Power, zoning, the Lewiston Housing Authority and school district issues.

Nagine said he accepted an invite to the meeting from Councilor Rick LaChapelle because the pair could be serving together on the council next term, and he could “build rapport with someone I may be working with for the betterment of our city.”

However, he said he ended up going to Councilor Scott with questions regarding some comments made by LaChapelle during the meeting, which included “grievances he held concerning the school system” and “the number of student suspensions LPS has seen this year, specifically pointing out the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of the students.”

“Whether any of this raises to the point of discussing city business in a quorum or being privy to or discussing information that is privileged, I cannot say,” Nagine said in the statement. “I can say, however, that appearances are everything in governance and that I am deeply sorry that I did not remove myself and allowed myself to participate in the conversation once it became clear that the subject matter was connected to what some would consider city business.”

Scott said that after she heard from Nagine about the meeting, she was also approached by roughly a dozen people in the last week asking about the meeting at The Cage.

“Not only does this go against public meeting rules, it brushes the line with moral turpitude, a removable offense,” she said.


Following Scott’s statement, McCarthy said Scott is “using her position with the opposition to attack us four weeks before the election to try to sway the vote.”

He also said the four councilors assumed they might be “attacked on this,” and that some of the topics broached at The Cage “were just a plant to see who we can trust.”

“Now we know,” he said.

McCarthy also said city administration was told about the meeting idea, and told councilors that as long as it was announced beforehand and everyone was invited, it would be fine.

Councilor Scott Harriman said coordinating outside of City Hall has been a pattern for the councilors.

“You don’t make a meeting a public meeting by just telling people a few minutes beforehand,” he said, adding later, “The fact that you continue to do it shows you have a disrespect for the democratic process.”


According to Maine statute regarding public proceedings and freedom of access, public proceedings and deliberations must be conducted openly and records of actions must be open to public inspection. The statute also states that “clandestine meetings, conferences or meetings held on private property without proper notice and ample opportunity for attendance by the public” must not be used.

LaChapelle said the meeting is a “nonissue,” and that it has been a long-held tradition and a common occurrence for officials to socialize following meetings. He said the invite to The Cage was meant as an opportunity for the council and Planning Board to converse “that we haven’t had.”

“Sadly only two of them came,” he said. “I’m disappointed in how this has played out.”

Clement threatened to use the council majority to remove Scott as council president.

“I caution where you step madam because I have teeth and I will bite back,” he said.

Asked Wednesday, Mayor Carl Sheline said “it’s pretty obvious at this point that a quorum of councilors have been meeting outside of the public eye.” He referred to past instances when the issue was brought up, including a 2022 draft resolution and during a proposed School Committee appointment last month.


“It’s not transparent and Lewiston deserves better,” he said.

Asked for a comment, Councilor Gelinas, who is not running for reelection, said the debate Tuesday “is just more of the same that I’ve grown very tired of,” and that has become “significant through my second term.”

Scott disagreed with the accusations that her statements were rooted in politics. She said she’s not running again, and is “probably moving away” from Lewiston.

“I have very serious concerns about this city,” she said. “I’m very much in favor of council governance, Maine law, and those are things that should not be happening.

McCarthy said the whole idea of the meeting was to talk to Planning Board members, and with Nagine coming on the council, to get his thoughts on issues.

“We’re a bunch of grown adults and obviously we can’t play well in the sandbox together,” LaChapelle said. “Obviously we’re not going to agree on just about anything. Let’s just move forward and let the voters decide the direction, instead of sitting up here like a bunch of seventh graders whining like this.”


Clement said the “accusations made that laws have been broken” are untrue, and that he doesn’t recall any city business being discussed. He said the discussion regarding Central Maine Power centered on the upcoming statewide referendum.

“I caution anyone accusing me of a criminal act, they better have their ducks in a row,” he said.

Harriman responded that while “we don’t agree on policy, I would hope we can all agree on our rules of governance and our charter, and governing openly.”

Harriman then offered another item under the new business section of the agenda: a recognition that October is bullying prevention month.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.